Every MLB Team's Most Pressing Need It Must Fill This Offseason
Regardless of the previous season's results, every MLB team has at least one area it needs to address each offseason, whether it's making a splash signing or just filling out the roster with a complementary piece or two.
This offseason figures to be an exciting one, as a relatively thin free-agent class could mean plenty of action on the trade market. That's not to say there are not impact players to be had in free agency, as second baseman Robinson Cano, outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury and starters Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana make up the cream of the free-agent crop.
Taking a closer look at the current makeup of all 30 teams, here is a look at every MLB team's most pressing need that it must fill this offseason.
Baltimore Orioles: Durable veteran starter
The Orioles have other areas of need outside of the rotation, as second base is a question mark with the departure of Brian Roberts, and left field could be vacant as well if Nate McLouth is not re-signed. However, finding a durable veteran arm to slot behind Chris Tillman in the rotation remains their No. 1 priority.
Boston Red Sox: Re-signing Mike Napoli
Figuring out the catcher position is a close second, but bringing back Mike Napoli ranks as the Red Sox's top priority this winter. The 32-year-old ranked second on the team in home runs and RBI this past season, and with a thin crop of first basemen behind him on the market and right-handed power hitters becoming more and more rare, he has to be brought back.
New York Yankees: Starting pitching
With only CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova under contract from last year's rotation and nothing in the way of in-house talent ready to step in and make an impact, the rotation will certainly need to be addressed this offseason if the Yankees are going to have any chance of returning to the playoffs. The Robinson Cano decision may be the biggest one the team has to make from a financial standpoint, but shoring up the rotation could have a bigger impact on the team's success.
Tampa Bay Rays: First base
The Rays have become one of the best in the business at bargain shopping to fill key positions, with closer Fernando Rodney in 2012 and James Loney this past season ranking as two of the better value signings in recent memory. With both of those players departing, the team will likely take a similar approach to filling their spots, but with in-house options like Jake McGee having the ability to close, finding a new first baseman ranks as their most pressing need.
Toronto Blue Jays: Starting pitcher
Only the Minnesota Twins got a worse ERA from their starting rotation than the Blue Jays in 2013, as their revamped staff combined for a 4.81 mark. The duo of R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle will be back atop the rotation next season, and the team has plenty of options to fill out the staff from there, but look for the Jays to add another frontline arm if the opportunity presents itself.
Chicago White Sox: Trade partners
The White Sox offseason has already been a success, as they are not likely to make another splash signing after landing Cuban defector Jose Abreu to replace Paul Konerko at first base. Their focus now will be shopping guys like Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez as they continue to move toward rebuilding and look to restock their relatively thin farm system.
Cleveland Indians: Bullpen
With closer Chris Perez released already this offseason and top setup man Joe Smith hitting free agency, the Indians bullpen is a major question mark heading into 2014. Rookie Cody Allen is a solid piece of the puzzle, and Brian Shaw was solid as well, but finding a reliable closer and either re-signing Smith or replacing him in the setup role will be key. Don't be surprised if the team adds two or three proven bullpen arms.
Detroit Tigers: Re-signing Omar Infante
Deciding what to do with Max Scherzer will be the Tigers' biggest offseason decision, and they will also either need to re-sign Joaquin Benoit or find a replacement for him, but bringing back Omar Infante at second base is tops on their offseason to-do list. The position was a revolving door until Tigers acquired Infante from the Marlins at the deadline in 2012, and and he hit a solid .318/.345/.450 last year with 10 home runs and 51 RBI.
Kansas City Royals: Starting pitcher
With Ervin Santana likely headed for greener pastures and swingman Bruce Chen being a free agent as well, the Royals look to be in the market for a starter. The team could opt to slot Danny Duffy and flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura at the back end of the rotation in order to focus on upgrading second base or right field, but they do have decent in-house options there if they stand pat.
Minnesota Twins: Starting pitchers
The Minnesota Twins went bargain hunting in an attempt to fix their starting pitching problems last offseason, and the result was a 96-loss season and an MLB-worst 5.26 ERA from their starters. Kevin Correia will be back, and the duo of Andrew Albers and Samuel Deduno showed flashes of being capable starters last year, but the team needs to add at least a couple more arms.
Houston Astros: Cheap veteran pitching
The Astros' only free agent is veteran left-hander Erik Bedard, and unless they decide to make a serious run at Shin-Soo Choo, chances are they are not going to make any major offseason signings. Instead, look for them to cast a wide net when it comes to handing out minor league contracts to veteran pitchers as they look to fill out both their rotation and bullpen on the cheap.
Los Angeles Angels: Starting pitcher
The Angels added the trio of Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton last offseason in an effort to shore up their starting rotation, and the results were disappointing at best. The duo of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson is among the best in the business, and Garrett Richards has earned a shot at holding down a spot, but the team will need to look for a pair of reliable veterans from there.
Oakland Athletics: Late-inning reliever
With the departure of All-Star closer Grant Balfour in free agency, the A's have a big decision to make about the back end of their bullpen. They're unlikely to spend big in free agency in order to add a closer, and sliding either Ryan Cook or Sean Doolittle into the ninth-inning role seems like the most likely scenario. Regardless, they'll need to add another late-inning arm to replace whoever is removed from the setup role.
Seattle Mariners: Center fielder
The Mariners have assembled a solid core of homegrown, young talent, but the center field position remains an area they need to fill long-term. Franklin Gutierrez is gone in free agency, and while Dustin Ackley is one option to fill the spot in-house, there is a good chance the team looks to make a splash signing here in an effort to improve an offense that improved in 2013 but still has a ways to go.
Texas Rangers: Catcher
A.J. Pierzynski brought the Rangers solid value on the one-year, $7.5 million deal he signed last offseason, and there is still a chance the team could bring him back. A serious run at Brian McCann is a real possibility as well, though, and with top prospect Jorge Alfaro still at least a couple years away, they will need to sign someone. Geovany Soto was re-signed, but he's better served as a backup who gets a couple starts a week at most.
Atlanta Braves: Veteran starting pitcher
The Braves have a terrific young trio atop their starting rotation in Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, and they could opt to go with Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood to fill out the rest of the staff. However, with Tim Hudson likely departing, adding a veteran starter to help take some pressure off the young arms looks like a real possibility.
Miami Marlins: Third base
The big-league debut of 31-year-old Ed Lucas for the Marlins this past season was a nice story, and he hit a respectable .256/.311/.336 over 351 at-bats while playing mostly third base. The team could opt to go with him again at third base to open the season and then turn things over to prospect Zack Cox at some point, but this looks like one particular area where the Marlins could make a low-cost veteran signing and receive an upgrade.
New York Mets: Outfield
Juan Lagares, Lucas Duda, Eric Young and Matt den Dekker are all in-house options that could fill out the Mets outfield, but with Duda potentially moving to first base with Ike Davis on the block and Young being a candidate to play second base, the team will likely sign at least one outfielder. In fact, the Mets could make a play for one of the market's impact bats at the position, as they have money to spend and a clear need to do so.
Philadelphia Phillies: Starting pitcher
The Phillies already made one big signing this offseason, adding Marlon Byrd on a two-year deal to shore up right field. They also re-signed catcher Carlos Ruiz, eliminating catcher from their list of needs as well.
That leaves adding another starter as their likely area of focus, as they have a dynamic duo in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels atop the staff, but nothing but question marks behind them. Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin will be given every chance to prove they belong, but adding a mid-level veteran to the mix seems like a good move.
Washington Nationals: Starting pitcher
A trendy pick to win it all heading into last season, the Nationals stumbled out of the gate and wound up missing the postseason. That said, they still have one of the most complete rosters in all of baseball from top to bottom and won't need to do much tinkering this offseason. Dan Haren is gone after an up-and-down season with the team, and while the Nats could opt to go with Taylor Jordan or Tanner Roark in his rotation spot, chances are they'll look to sign someone via free agency.
Chicago Cubs: Relief pitching
The Cubs will likely look to add a handful of players on one-year deals again this offseason in an effort to fill out the roster early on and to give them some trade chips to work with at the deadline. As for adding a piece to help in the short and long term, the bullpen looks like their biggest area of need. Blake Parker had a nice season last year and will be back alongside Pedro Strop and James Russell, but beyond those three is nothing but question marks.
Cincinnati Reds: Center field
There remains at least a chance that the Reds re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, but they would definitely need to move Brandon Phillips in order to have the money to pull it off. The more likely scenario looks to be speedy prospect Billy Hamilton stepping into the spot, but for a team looking to contend, it may be risky to rely on an unproven rookie to hit leadoff. Signing a veteran insurance policy for center field looks like the Reds' biggest need at this point.
Milwaukee Brewers: First base
With Corey Hart sidelined with knee issues for the entire season, the Brewers trotted out the likes of Juan Francisco, Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt among others at first base in 2013. The result was a .206/.259/.370 line from the position, so upgrading won't be hard. Bringing back Hart is a distinct possibility, while guys like James Loney and Kendrys Morales are options as well.
Pittsburgh Pirates: First base
The Pirates also find themselves in the market for a first baseman, as they relied upon a platoon of Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez for much of last season before acquiring Justin Morneau for the stretch run in August. Right field is also an area the team could look upgrade, but with top prospect Gregory Polanco not far from arriving in Pittsburgh, upgrading first base seems like a better use of the team's limited funds.
St. Louis Cardinals: Shortstop
Not many teams could have gotten away with platoon of Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso at shortstop and still made the playoffs, but the Cardinals had enough offensive firepower elsewhere to pull it off. Still, the .222/.280/.303 line and four home runs the team got from the shortstop position last season make it a clear area in need of an upgrade, and the Cardinals will undoubtedly explore both free agency and the trade market in order to do so.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Power bat
The Diamondbacks have one of the most dangerous hitters in all of baseball in Paul Goldschmidt, and finding some better lineup protection for him looks like their biggest offseason need. Third base or corner outfield, depending on where they slot Martin Prado, are two areas they could look to add a bat. Whether it's a trade for someone like Mark Trumbo or a run at free agents like Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran, they have some options.
Colorado Rockies: Starting pitcher
A return to health for Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa gave the Colorado Rockies two plus starters at the top of their rotation, and Tyler Chatwood was a solid No. 3 when healthy. The rest of the rotation was a mess, though, and that led to an NL-high 555.2 innings out of the bullpen. Top prospects Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler could both be up by midseason, but adding a workhorse veteran would help things in the early going.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Third base
Re-signing Juan Uribe is a very real possibility, especially considering he's the top option in an incredibly weak crop of free-agent third basemen. He's not the only option, though, as the team could explore a trade for someone like Chase Headley or Aramis Ramirez. But in the end, a two-year deal to retain Uribe looks like the most likely scenario.
San Diego Padres: Starting pitcher
The Padres have a solid young duo in Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, and they also have a potential bounce-back candidate in Ian Kennedy, but the rotation remains a clear weakness, and who will fill in behind those three remains to be seen. They are not likely to spend big on an arm, but signing a mid-level starter or two could be enough to propel the Padres to .500 this coming season.
San Francisco Giants: Starting pitcher
The core trio of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner will all be back in 2014, but with Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Chad Gaudin gone, the Giants will have to piece together the rest of their rotation. The pitching staff was the key to their success prior to 2013, so don't be surprised if they make a splash and sign someone like Matt Garza in an effort to get back to October.